Have you decided to buy a used car from someone privately but don’t know what to look for when buying a used car from a private seller or what are some of the most important questions to ask when buying a used car from a private party? If yes, you are in the right place, and this guide is wholly dedicated to car enthusiasts like you.
In today’s time, when buying new vehicles has become easier with automobile companies rolling out exciting facilities and banks providing easier car loans, many people still prefer to buy used vehicles. Call it their obsession with antique cars or compulsion of not having enough finances and easy ways to buy new cars, and they are still buying used cars nonetheless!
So, if you are one amongst them and you have come to this guide looking for information related to buying old and used cars privately, you are all caught up!
There are certain issues and essential things to look for when buying a used car from a private seller so that you can avoid any problem that follows after the purchase. Most old cars do not cost too little to not verify them before purchasing, more so if they are antique vehicles.
The questions that might hinder you while buying such used cars can be varied. You might ask yourself should I buy a used car from a dealer or private seller or whether it is a wise investment plan to buy old cars instead of taking car loans, etc.
We are sure there might be a lot more than this running in your head right now, for which you are seeking a suitable answer. Worry not! We are here to help you sort all your queries related to buying used cars from private sellers.
Go through the entire article to learn about all the important things to check when buying a used car, questions to ask when buying a used car from a private seller and clear all your doubts inevitably!
Is It Better to Buy a Used Car from a Dealership or Private Seller?
The first question that you must ask yourself when you make up your mind to buy a used car should be whether is it better to buy a used car from a dealership or a private seller? While some people argue that buying it from a dealership is beneficial, some have the opinion that buying it from a private seller is a better option.
And hey, we agree on both!
Buying used cars from private dealers and dealerships has its own pros and cons, but we must focus on the right choice for ourselves. And the choice becomes easier when you know exactly what to look for when buying a used car from a private seller or a dealer.
If you are too inert to be making all the legal paperwork arrangements in the time of buying the car and you need help, going to a dealership is a fine idea as they are a pro in handling these things!
On the other hand, if you are not willing to shell out more money (other than the price listed for the car) to make the car your own, then settling for buying it from a private seller is advised as they do not charge the dealership fees and you get the room for negotiation as well.
Thus, both have their own advantages and disadvantages, and you must go for the one that meets your requirements.
But, if you intend to buy the car from a private seller, there are certain things that you must consider before nodding yes! In the following sections, we have listed a comprehensive checklist for buying a used car from a private seller and other useful related information.
So, let’s keep reading to learn what to check when buying a used car from a private seller and what are the questions to ask when buying a used car from a private party.
What are the Pros and Cons of Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller?
As discussed above, there are both pros and cons of buying a used car from a private seller, which we shall discuss here. After going through this section, you shall get a clear idea of whether buying the used car from a private party is a befitting choice for you or whether you want to change your mind and go for a dealership instead.
Pros of Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller:
A private seller is an individual just like you, who owns a vehicle and wants to sell his or her car with the least bit of hassle. Hence, there are various advantages in choosing a private seller over a dealership when purchasing a used car. Here we have mentioned some of the outstanding benefits of buying a used car from a private seller:
This is one of the most coveted advantages of buying a used car from a private seller – the low cost!
When there is a third party’s involvement in any deal, the price that the actual buyer pays always goes up. So, when you are buying a used car from a dealership, it will add their charges along with the listed price, and you have to pay more.
On the other hand, if you are willing to buy the car directly from the seller, without the involvement of the dealer, you only have to pay the listed price, and you can save a good amount that would have gone to the dealership.
When you intend to buy a used car from a private seller, apart from paying a lower price than the dealership, you also get the room for negotiations. Sometimes, when you consider the important things to look for when buying a used car, you neglect the negotiation part.
But you should know that most of the time, the private sellers list the price a notch higher when selling it to individual owners as they are well aware of the fact that chances of negotiations are high. And you must bargain the price so that you get to settle at a lower cost than listed by the owner and save some bucks.
So, this is one more advantage that you get over buying the car from a dealership – easier negotiation options!
No Dealer Fees
If you have been asking yourself whether is it cheaper to buy a used car from a private seller, then the answer is “Yes”!
When you are buying the car directly from a private seller, you are paying only the price listed by the seller and not anything apart from that. But if you are buying it from a dealership, apart from the listed price, you also have to pay the dealership fees, which are higher than what you expect!
Thus, eventually, the entire cost of the car rises up if you choose to buy from a dealership. And if you are buying used cars, it simply means that you have budget constrictions, and so, preferring to refrain from shelling out extra dealership charges is recommended if you want to save money!
When you buy a used car from a dealership, you have to complete too much paperwork and have to pay frequent visits until your deal is finalized. But there is less paperwork for buying a used car from a private seller, and thereby you have to go through less hassle also.
Though it is good to have all the things sorted when buying a car from a private seller when you buy it through a dealer, the formalities are more, and hence you have to bear more hassle than usual.
On the other hand, buying the car from the individual owner makes it an easy process, and you do not have to pay frequent visits before buying as well.
Cons of Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller:
There are several advantages and disadvantages of buying a used car from a private seller, and we discussed some of the eye-catching advantages of buying a used car privately in the above section. Now talking about the disadvantages, there are some! So, let’s check them out:
One notable disadvantage of buying a used car from a private seller is that you do not get any warranty of the vehicle you are going to purchase.
But if you buy it from an authorized dealer, you are entitled to get the vehicle’s warranty for a limited period, and you can get it repaired for free if you face any issues with it.
This stands good for those who tend to buy such vehicles whose condition is not so good, or they are old manufactured vehicles.
No Financing Options
This is one of the significant disadvantages of buying a used car from a private seller, which is why some buyers tend to ditch the idea of buying the used cars from private sellers.
Yes, getting financing facilities even if you are buying old cars is definitely a huge relief. And thus, if you do not get such a facility, you shall not prefer buying it from a private seller.
The car dealers who sell old cars mostly provide financing facilities which make your car buying expense easy and bearing. Hence, if you do not get the same option while buying it from a private seller, it is straightaway considered to be a disadvantage over buying it from a dealership.
No Lemon Law Protections
For those unaware, Lemon laws are applied to car buyers who buy defective cars which cannot be fixed quickly. In such cases, the car dealers are entitled to provide a replacement or refund to the old car buyer till the mentioned period.
But the lemon laws on buying a used car from a private seller doesn’t stand significant because it is not extended to them. Some states may give the authorization of lemon law to individual car owners, but the number is very low.
So, as a whole, it is considered that if you buy an old car from a dealer, you are entitled to receive lemon law benefits, but it is not the case when you buy it from an individual car owner.
Lower Sense of Security
When you are buying an old car, you have to create your own checklist for buying a used car from a private seller. But if you buy the same car from a dealer, they have already done the required security checks and listed it, apparently keeping in mind the safety and security of the new buyer of the car.
So, the sense of security that you get from an individual buyer is very low as compared to when you buy it from a dealer.
Not only in terms of the condition of the car but also regarding the paperwork and other useful information that you need for being the car’s legal owner is cross-checked by the dealer to ensure you are high in the sense of security.
What to Look for When Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller?
Now that you have made up your mind to buy a used car, there are certain things to look out for when buying a used car directly from the owner.
And if you are not familiar with any checklist for buying a used car from a private seller or already do not know what are some essential things to look for when buying a used car privately, the following section shall help you understand them well.
So now without further ado, let’s find out what to look for in a used car before buying and what to check when buying a used car from a private seller. Here we go:
Take a Test Drive to Check the Car’s Condition
When you are buying a used car from a private seller, checking its condition by taking a test drive is always recommended by automobile experts. And if you are denied permission for the same, it would be wise of you to back out from buying the car.
It is until you drive the car, you won’t be able to understand its condition enough just by taking a glance at it.
And if you are allowed to take a test drive of the car before buying, then you must drive it both on the local road and the highway to be sure of its ability to perform in varied roads and environments.
When you drive on the local roads, you must take note of how the car performs in sharp turns or during instant shiftings. You must also check the brakes’ response in some stop-and-go traffic situations to judge the capability of the car brakes. These things you can check while driving on local roads.
On the other hand, when you hit the highways to test drive, make sure you notice the car’s smoothness. You must also pay attention to any kind of noise coming out of the engine or brakes while driving on the highway.
Also, check for the performance of the electronics items present in the car while you test drive it.
Check Vehicle History (VIN Check)
The last thing you want to face when buying a used car is a legal notice claiming the car is stolen and police arresting you followed by it. Of course, nobody wants that! So, one of the most important things to check when buying a used car is its VIN to be sure whether the car is stolen or not!
When you are going to buy an old car, make sure you ask the owner for the VIN or the unique Vehicle Identification Number that every car has! Once you get it, cross-check it with the VIN that is placed on the dashboard plaque on the driver’s side windshield.
After you are sure that the owner has provided you with the correct VIN, go to the VIN checking database called VINCheck Lookup on the NICB (National Insurance Crime Bureau) website and check the information provided on the website.
If the car was stolen or has been reported for any legal issues, it will be mentioned on the website, and you can be sure of the car’s status. It is then that you can decide whether you want to buy the used car from the private seller or you want to abandon the idea.
Check the Registration Documents
Are you still wondering what to look for when buying a used car from a private seller? Well, here is our next suggestion. Check for the registration documents of the car.
The legal documents of the car matter the most when purchasing an old car because if there is any type of error in the paperwork, not only it will affect the name transferring procedure, but it may also attract legal actions furthermore!
When you check for the registration number, it will guide you to knowing whether the seller is the real owner of the car. You would also be able to know whether the car has been sold before or it is being sold for the first time.
The RC book or the smart card would indicate the owner’s serial number, which holds the information of the reselling of the car if there was any.
When checking the registration documents, you will also find the details about the car’s road tax dues (if any), NOC details, loan clearance details, and other similar legal documentation details so that you can be assured of its originality and authenticity.
If all the things are on point, the car title transfer process will be much easier than usual.
Perform a Leak Down Test
Out of the many things to check for when buying a used car privately, performing a leak test is always underrated! But you must know that it is one of the important things to check before you give your nod to buying the car.
If there is any leakage from the car’s engine, it is evident that you will require a repair which can add to the entire cost of the car subsequently. Thus, checking for leaks is anyway recommended when buying a car from a private seller.
Now, you must be wondering; how to perform leak down test on engine?
It’s very simple. Just get in the car, drive it for some time and pull over the car into a parking lot or open space where you can check for any leakage. Keep it on for a minimum of 30 seconds, and then swift drive the car away from the parking space.
Next, check on the ground if there is any substance present. If you find any green-colored fluid, it means there is a leak in the antifreeze component of the car, if there is a black colored fluid, perhaps it is an engine oil leak, and if there is a pink-colored fluid, then the chances are high that there is a leak in the transmission.
By following such leak down testing, you can check for the leaks when buying a used car directly from a private seller.
Thoroughly Examine the Interior and Exterior
Are you still wondering what to look for when buying a used car from a private seller? If yes, here is the next beneficial suggestion for you. Checking the car thoroughly for both the interiors and exteriors is always well recommended. And it is not like you just take a glance; you have to be sincere in the inspection.
As for the exterior, you have more to check. Start with inspecting the car’s body panel to check for scratches or dents, then kneel down on the back and front to check for waviness which inside is damaged, and lastly check for the tires whether they are in good shape or have any kind of leaks, etc.
These are some of the most important things that you must check before buying a used car from a private seller. If you find any discrepancies while checking, bring it to the notice of the seller immediately and ask for repair or a lesser price because of these issues.
Check the Actual Mileage of the Car
How to know if you’re buying a good used car? By checking its actual mileage! Yes, you read that right!
The actual mileage is not always the same as mentioned by the car owner or what it was during the time it was bought new. So, checking for the current and actual mileage before saying yes to buying the car is utterly recommended.
When you want to check the car’s mileage, you must first check whether the fuel meter and the distance meters work properly. If both these function properly, then you can go for a drive for 1-2 kms and check for the mileage instantly.
It is evident that the used cars would be less on mileage as compared to what it used to give when purchased new, so you must also be aware of that and be open with your expectations.
If you find that the mileage is very low and not meeting the general standards, then it is advised you consult a car mechanic or ask about the same from the original car owner. If you are not satisfied with the mileage, don’t go for it.
But in case, if you feel that you are getting a decent mileage, then you can give the nod to the purchase if all other conditions are positively fulfilled.
Get the Car Inspected by a Good Mechanic
Until we have immense knowledge of cars and car parts, we cannot predict what to look for mechanically when buying a used car. It can only be done by an automobile expert or a car mechanic to be precise to make you aware of the condition of the old car.
So, before buying a used car, you must ask the owner for granting you permission to get the car inspected by a good and experienced mechanic.
Though the mechanic might charge you extra for the inspection, it is still a worthwhile expense as the inspection might save you from greater expenses later on.
The condition of the car can be well-read by a professional mechanic who can also guide you to any type of damage or repairs that the car has or needs, and thereby you can make up your mind whether to go for the purchase or not.
Sometimes, the mechanics will also be able to help you guide with the actual price range of the used car so that you are not duped of your money by the individual seller. So, it is advised that you go for a mechanical check of the car before giving your nod for buying it.
Check the Car Maintenance Records (Recalls)
Even if you have done the previous checks, you must still be thinking about what to look for when buying a used car from a private seller as you don’t want to keep any loose ends hanging while making such deals, right?
You are not wrong, as taking a step to buy used cars is big in itself because if you are buying a used car, it means you have a limited monetary budget that you want to utilize for the best purpose.
And if you are investing a good amount for the purchase, you would also want good in return. Thus, you have to be entirely sure about the good condition of the car before buying it. And apart from the things to check that are mentioned above, you must also consider checking the maintenance records of the car.
In most cases, the car owners keep the maintenance records intact if they intend to sell the car afterwards. But if, in any case, there is no maintenance record from the car owner, you can ask for the garage or service center where the car was taken for servicing and ask for the records from them as well.
The car’s maintenance records let you understand what kind of issues the owner has faced with the car and how it has been resolved.
Check the Car Insurance Validity
In case, if you are making a used car inspection checklist or a checklist for buying a used car from a private seller, then make sure you check the car insurance validity.
If the car is already insured, you don’t have to insure it again, but you have to re-buy the insurance again if the insurance validity has expired. Car insurance is one of the most important documents that every car owner must have possession of!
In most states, not owning car insurance is considered illegal. And if you are buying an old car with failed insurance, then you have to re-issue it again to not come under the scanner of the legal authorities.
Not only that, owning car insurance is anyway beneficial for you only. It helps you sail through accidents or similar types of situations easily. You do not have to pay an extra amount for the car’s repair if it faces any damages in any type of accident when you have got it insured.
Beyond that, some car insurance companies also cover the safety of the car owners and pay for their internal damages if caused by a car accident. Thus, you cannot really avoid having car insurance, whether you are buying an old car or a new one.
Meet the Seller in Person and Ask All the Necessary Questions
By now, you have gone through almost all the steps related to how to buy a used car from a private seller safely. Now is the most vital step, i.e., meeting the car seller in person and asking for any queries or doubts that you have in detail.
Sometimes, people choose the online modes of car selection when buying used cars, and they finalize the deal on those platforms only and then close the deal without meeting the car owner in person.
Call it the advantage of the digital world or not having enough time to meet the seller in person due to their busy schedules, this thing has emerged of late amongst old car buyers. But it is not only risky in terms of fake or fraudulent attempts to sell old cars, but you can also be duped of your money incessantly.
So, what you must do is contact the seller in person, take note of the address and take out time to meet the owner, and also inspect the car on your own. You must also ask any type of question that you have on your mind while you make the visit to the car owner. This is both safe and satisfying on the buyer’s side.
Make an Offer and Close the Deal
Now that you have got all the helpful tips for buying a used car from a private seller, you must be satisfied with your choice. After you have gone through all the desired checks and asked the important questions, you can now make an offer and close the deal.
You should also consider the price after the completion of all the checks so that you can be sure the price you are paying is not above the market price.
When you close the deal, ask for the payment mode that the seller would be interested in! If you have budget constraints, you can ask for financing options or make the payment in easy monthly installments till you get the car keys on your hand.
If you choose to pay the full amount at a go, you must ask the owner which mode is preferred by him or her for the payment so you can make arrangements for the same.
It is only after both of you come to terms with the price and mode of payment, and you must agree upon the deal and lock it thereafter. Do not forget to make a legal document of the purchase between you and the original car owner so as to keep the proof for any upcoming legal requirements.
You might also like to read: 12 Most Essential Tips for First-Time Car Buyers
Questions to Ask When Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller:
After going through the above explained what to look for when buying a used car from a private seller checklist, if you have made up your mind to buy an old and used car, you better be prepared to ask some important questions to the seller so that you can be confirmed of the condition of the car.
And if you do not know which questions to ask when buying a used car from a private seller, then here are some tips that you can take a cue from! Here we go:
Why is the Seller Selling the Car?This is one of the important questions to ask when buying a used car from a private seller. Sometimes it is seen that car owners are selling their cars because they might have faced any mishaps or maybe they have exhausted their insurance period, etc.
So, it is advised that you ask them why they want to sell their vehicle. If you find any misleadings in their information, you might decide to change your mind and opt out from buying the vehicle.
Has the Car Been Through Accidents Before?Out of all the important things to ask when buying a used car, this one seems to hold more weightage.
If the car has been through accidents before, it’s likely there might be any kind of issues with it, like internal damage, a pending legal query, repaired parts, etc.
And as the new owner of the car, you must be aware of everything that the car has gone through in the past so as to avoid any further problems.
How Long Has the Seller Owned the Car?There are many questions to ask when buying a used car from the owner, and this can be one amongst them. When you are sure that you want to buy a used car, you must know how old the car is!
Sometimes people sell their cars after using them for just a few years, and sometimes they sell after a very long period. This helps you to know whether the price they are asking is justified or not.
What is the Mileage of the Car in the Current Period?This is also one of the important questions when buying a used car, as you can be assured of the efficacy of the car when you start using it.
Knowing the mileage is a big deal for every car owner as the petrol or diesel prices keep surging day by day, and affording long drives might be an issue for the average car owner. Purchasing a car with more mileage offerings is anyway preferred!
Will You be Given Permission to Test Drive the Car?Are you still wondering about what questions to ask when buying a used car from a private seller? You can surely ask this one; will you be allowed a test drive before nodding yes for the purchase.
A test drive is necessary because you can be well aware of the condition of the car and the swiftness of driving it before you buy it. If you aren’t allowed to drive, then you should reconsider your decision.
Does the Owner Have All the Required Legal Documents of the Car?Most people become confused as to what are the questions to ask when buying a used car from a private seller. And sometimes, they even try to skip these questionnaires to not make it awkward. But hold on!
These are your rights to know before you purchase a used car, and asking them these questions is always recommended and asking about the availability of the legal documents of the car is another very important question that you must not overlook!
What is the Current Condition of the Car, and Whether You will be Allowed an Inspection?There might be a lot of questions to ask when buying a used car privately, but you must know which ones to ask on priority! And this one can definitely be counted as one of the important questions to be asked before the purchase.
You must be aware of the car’s present condition and seek permission to either take it to a garage for inspection or inspect it by yourself if you have the proper knowledge.
How was the Car Maintained, and are the Service Records Available?You can also consider this as one of the important questions to ask when purchasing a used car. The maintenance procedure of the car all these years and the service records are proof that the car was not handled improperly.
And if the car owner can provide you with these details, you must know you are good to go with the purchase, but if they fail to provide, you must reconsider your decision.
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What to Look for When Buying a Used Car Checklist [FAQs]:
Now that we are nearing the end of the article “What to look for when buying a used car from a private seller?”, you have got enough knowledge regarding buying used cars from private sellers. But there might still be some questions hindering your mind for which you might be seeking answers.
Like you may be wondering; what is the safest way to pay for a used car from a private seller, what to do after buying a used car from owner, or can you get a loan to buy a used car from a private seller, etc. Isn’t it?
Don’t worry, this frequently asked questions and answers section is formed to help you get answers to such queries. Take a look!
If you are worried about your financial safety, we will tell you the safest way to pay for a used car from a private seller so that your money is not misused and you get what you pay for!
To be on the safe side, it is advised that you pay the full amount only after getting the car keys in your hand. If the seller insists, you can give a token amount, but that must be a very lesser amount, and you must also take a receipt for that.
Paying by cash, card, check and any other payment mode is safe but ensure you get a bonafide receipt of the payment to record legal proof of the purchase.
As most private sellers do not have financing options, some buyers prefer to take loans to bridge the gap. Yes, buying a used car from a private seller with a loan is made possible across the US, UK, and several other countries with simple loan repayment options.
All you need to do is find such companies or financiers who have schemes that provide loans to individual buyers to purchase used cars from private sellers.
Make sure you read the documents carefully before you apply for the loan and also select the vehicle beforehand, as sometimes these companies tend to check it for approval.
After going through this article, now you know exactly what to look for when buying a used car from a private seller, but do you know what to do after buying a used car from a private seller?
If you have successfully purchased the car from a private seller, don’t think your work is over yet! There are certain things to do after you buy a used car from private sellers.
Start with transferring the title of the car, then get an inspection done (if not done before), get insurance, plan for repair and maintenance, register the car, change the car interior look (if needed), and you are all set to hit the road.
It is evident that you may be basking in excitement to drive your newly purchased vehicle, but it is best to do after completing these tasks.
What to Check When Buying a Used Car from a Private Seller?
Not all of us are lucky enough to afford to buy new cars, which of course leads us to buy old and used cars when in need. Though sometimes, we get good deals, sometimes it may cost us hefty amounts with no proper outcome.
There are some essential things you need to know when buying a used car, and if you fail to cross-check these things, it might land you in trouble after purchasing the vehicle, which may also be in legal terms!
But as we promised you in the beginning, we are here to look after your doubts and help you buy old cars with a new swag (pun intended!)
You have already come across the list of things to watch out for when buying a used car and also read about other related useful information when buying used cars privately. If I had to suggest a few things among the mentioned ones to look out for when buying a used car from a private party, I would have suggested to:
- Take a Test Drive to Check the Car’s Condition
- Check the Registration Documents
- Get the Car Inspected by a Good Mechanic
- Meet the Seller in Person and Ask All the Necessary Questions
For me, these are the most important things to consider when buying a used car, even if you think of skipping the other mentioned ones.
No wonder you are on this page “What to look for when buying a used car from a private seller?” to look for information related to buying used cars, and hopefully, the entire article has helped you solve your queries well! Don’t wait; go get your car now!
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